Roy: Okay, for the uninitiated, just who is this Andy King person anyway?
Andy: You start
off with a difficult one Roy, one I've
been trying to answer all my life: I'm a
Husband - Father - Son - Brother - Uncle
- Friend - Musician - Artist - Writer -
Lover - Fighter - Computer Geek - Gadget
Freak - Tax Payer - Dragon Slayer -
Veteran Plan - Renaissance Man - Old Man
and the Sea - Bohemian Rhapsody... Need
I say more.
Roy: You were playing bass the first time I met you--1985? '86?--at Applejacks with The Crawfish of Love. The shows always looked very loose and very scripted at the same time. Had to be a blast. Any interesting Crawfish stories? Just how did you guys rehearse that material?
Andy: Dave Roberts is the C.O.L. (we can't, for legal reasons, use the full name) we were just along for the ride. Two-headed cows on a children's roller coaster. We were very loose, but very scripted, at the same time.
One funny story… we were at one of our infrequent rehearsals when I questioned Dave about a lyric. I asked if it was pilgrim hat MIME, he said "No, it's pilgrim hat MIND... Pilgrim hat MIME wouldn't make any sense."
Roy: As a
songwriter that actually makes sense to
Roy: You play upright bass as well as electric. Now, I've never tried the upright--keep saying I will one day--what tips could you give a guy like me who's only played electric bass his whole life?
Andy: The very
first, and the most important thing you
need to do …is buy an upright bass. Then
you take advice from the late, great
Vassar Clements: "All ya gotta do is go
THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!"
Roy: Well, even I might be able to do that! So how did you get started playing in bands? What was the first band you were in?
Andy: I started
loving music singing in children's choir
at church. Playing rock and roll, to my
Mothers chagrin, was just an obvious
step. My first band that had a name was
"Shadow" I was in 9th grade. I remember
our one gig, it was a senior breakfast
at Sandalwood High School. We were a
trio and sounded like clown ass.
Roy: Rex25--have you changed the name yet? Did I miss that somewhere? These songs seem very organic, simple, stream-of-consciousness-like, yet full. I could use that tired old "where do you get your ideas" query but how about instead: What's your aim with these songs? Kurt Vonnegut said he always wrote his stories for his sister to read. If he thought she wouldn't like it he'd do a rewrite. Who does Andy King write songs for?
Andy: Good questions…
First off IT'S OFFICIAL we have changed the name to "Calico SweetHeart". CD release party Nov. 6th.
I'm taking a slight turn - I've always loved European Electronic Dance Music (Electronica) - I've always loved Bluegrass and Country (Americana) I'm blending the two into what I call (Ameritronika). It's evolution. It's the same songs with extra dance-ability! My experiments can be found at… http://soundcloud.com/goodcatbadcat
I've been a sideman all my life, a sideman who was a frustrated songwriter. So, it's strange to me to be considered a songwriter now, but I guess I am. I would have to say I write my songs for my wife, Kathleen, she's my biggest fan and critic. I filter everything through her.
My lyrics seem to come from the feminine side of me, that's why I'm lucky to have someone like Jana sing them.
The music ( which
usually comes first) is an organic
process. I start with no particular
destination in mind and jam with myself
in the studio and just go where the
spirit takes me. A lazy Sunday drive.
Roy: What are your songwriting influences? Any songwriters you particularly admire?
Lennon/McCartney, Kate Bush, R.E.M., Bob
Marley, Harry Nielson, Leonard Cohen,
Tara Nevins (Donna the Buffalo). I could
go on forever. There are so many great
bands, performers, songwriters, out
there…it's hard to fathom.
Roy: As someone who has a recording studio in his house I know that sometimes there's a fine line between writing a song and recording it, and writing a song while you're recording it. You get an idea for a chord change or a new lyric, you run it down, you record it that way and the sometimes the entire timbre of the song has changed in a way you didn't originally plan. Even the sound of the guitar or a different keyboard patch can make a huge difference in shaping where the song goes next. How much of this goes into Calico SweetHeart?
Andy: It's a big part. I call it "Jammin' with myself." What starts out as a few chords on the piano or guitar develops into an identity once I start recording and messing with it. A cocooned butterfly.
Andy: I first establish an alternate universe or "AndiVerse" and within this "AndiVerse", with it's own rules and regulations, I create a scenario - In this case it's the wife of a veteran soldier (making herself a veteran soldiers wife) talking to a newcomers wife. The new wife asks: "is this normal? Is your husband the same since after the war? I had seen or heard something that started me thinking about this subject. I can't remember what. I deconstruct the lyrics more thoroughly in my blog entry titled "The Homecoming" located in the archive section of http://andywardking.blogspot.com
Then I search for a tune (usually already recorded) that fits and put them together.
Jana comes by and we tweak the words, I'll show her the cadence I'm hearing but I try not to influence the melody. I let her come up with that. Like you would let a sax player come up with their own solo. She'll do several takes I'll take the lines I like loop them - play around with them (cat with a new toy) and piece together the puzzle.
With the "AndiVerse"
properly set up - the songs write
themselves - It's all just polishing
Roy: The AndiVerse sounds like an interesting place to visit. So who do you have playing on these songs?
Andy: The newest versions will be mostly me (plus Jana Sue) with Mike Pearson helping on lead guitar. Also percussion samples and loops by Noel Millan and Saxophone samples by Bob Wright
The live crew is… Jana, Mike Pearson (guitar) Noel Millan (percussion) Donovan King (Bass and Keyboards) Chris Musker (percussion and driving) plus others TBA
I'm also a frustrated guitar, banjo, trombone, and fiddle player, so I plan to do more of that.
Andy: I have an AKG C414B I use a lot for vocals and a Neumann TLM 103 for acoustic instruments. I've found that equally important is quality microphone pre-amps and A/D D/A converters. Your sound is as good as your worst piece of equipment. You'd be surprised how good an SM58 sounds when run thru a $4000 Neve pre-amp. Currently I'm using a Steinberg (built by Yamaha) interface, good class A, true analog pre-amps with quality A/D converters, so far, I'm happy with it . Usually, if it's made in Germany or Austria, it's worth buying. I also use a Avalon U5 for the upright bass pickup preamp.
I'm in the middle
of learning Ableton Live, software that
will also enable me to perform my songs
live with minimal band members. I found
that keeping a band together is like
herding cats. I don't have time to be a
den mother. Ideally I would like to be a
3 piece, no more than 4, when playing
out of town. This will involve extensive
use of loops, samples, and midi. So, my
favorite piece of equipment, right now,
would have to be the software.
Roy: As a fellow bassist we both understand the necessity of having a good drummer to round out the rhythm section. What's your philosophy on making the bass and drums combination work well?
Andy: I've discovered that music is not about the Bass or any particular element of a band, it's about the song. I need a drummer that understands the same thing - I use drum machines, loops and samples a lot. Chops mean nothing to me. "It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing." I'm a Charlie Watts, Ringo kind of guy, not Neal Peart.
But to answer your question better, as long as the Bass player locks in with the kick drum everything is alright.
Thanks Roy, this has been fun.
You can read Andy's blog at: http://andywardking.blogspot.com
Look for the
Calico Sweetheart CD release on
November 6th at Mudville Grille in St.
A short list of bands that Andy has played with over the years:
Crawfish of Love